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Govt to soon consider relaxing FDI norms in single brand, digital media

According to sources, the Union Cabinet would soon consider these issues for approval

Illustration by Binay Sinha
Illustration by Binay Sinha

The government will soon consider relaxing foreign direct investment (FDI) norms in several sectors, including single-brand retail trading and digital media, to attract overseas players, sources said.

Other sectors where FDI rules would be eased are coal and contract manufacturing.

According to sources, the Union Cabinet would soon consider these issues for approval.

The government may allow 100 per cent FDI in contract manufacturing, according to the proposal.

In the existing foreign investment policy, 100 per cent foreign direct investment is permitted in the manufacturing sector under the automatic route.

A manufacturer is also allowed to sell products manufactured in India through wholesale and retail channels, including through e-commerce, without the government's approval.

But the policy does not talk about the contract manufacturing and it is not clearly defined in the policy.

"Big technology firms across the world are going for this, so there is a need for clarification on the matter," they said.

Similarly, the government is looking at coming out with a clarification on applicability of the foreign direct investment policy on the digital media sector.

The present FDI policy is silent on the fast-growing digital media segment.

In the print media sector, 26 per cent FDI is allowed through government approval route. Similarly, 49 per cent FDI is permitted in broadcasting content services through government approval route.

In the single-brand retail sector, the cabinet will consider a proposal of relaxing rules for complying with the mandatory 30 per cent local sourcing norms by foreign single-brand retailers.

As per the proposal, single-brand retail firms would also be permitted to open online stores before setting up brick-and-mortar shops.

Currently, online sale by a single-brand retail player is allowed only after the opening of physical outlets.

Relaxations are expected in a provision where foreign retail traders are presently allowed to adjust procurement of goods from India for their global operations for meeting the mandatory local sourcing requirement.

However, "incremental" sourcing of goods from India is only taken into account presently, and it will be allowed only for five years.

"Amendments and easing are also likely in this provision," a source said.

The move comes in the backdrop of announcements made by the government in the Budget.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Budget speech in July had stated that the government would examine suggestions of further opening up of FDI in aviation, media (animation, AVGC) and insurance sectors in consultation with all stakeholders to attract more overseas investment.

FDI in India dipped 1 per cent to USD 44.36 billion in 2018-19.

Last year, the government had relaxed FDI rules for several sectors, including single-brand retail, non-banking financial companies and construction.

Foreign investments are considered crucial for India, which needs billions of dollars for overhauling its infrastructure sector such as ports, airports and highways to boost growth.

FDI helps in improving the country's balance of payments situation and strengthen the rupee value against other global currencies, especially the US dollar.